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Alice Rodoni, longtime resident of Butte, passed away of natural causes on Dec. 13, 2011, in the Gallatin Rest Home in Bozeman.
Born in 1921 in the German part of Switzerland to Otto and Elizabeth Mueller, Alice was the second of five children. At age 7, great responsibility was suddenly thrust upon her when her father died and left her mother with, at that time, four young children to look after. While her mother worked outside the home, her older sister tended to mending, cleaning and ironing, leaving Alice with the duties of shopping, baking and the preparing of meals. Learning from her grandmother, a former hotel cook, Alice identified early on what was to become a lifelong passion. By age 13, her cooking and baking skills had already developed into a fine art.
At age 15, Alice finished her formal schooling and, like most girls her age in Switzerland at that time, she sought immediate employment in order to help provide extra income for her family. Although encouraged by teachers and schoolmasters to continue her education, this was not an option for Alice. Instead, most of her subsequent training would be of the "hands on" variety and would be a result of her adventurous job-seeking quests.
It was the pursuit of learning languages, though, that finally allowed Alice to venture out into the world and encounter new experiences. Her impromptu style of seeking work, always with the ulterior motive of learning some new language, such as French, English or Italian, afforded her many unplanned and unexpected opportunities. It was in this vein that, over a period of nearly fifteen years, she would work as a servant and chef for wealthy families (businessmen, bankers, counts and diplomats) and be influenced by the world of aristocratic rituals and fineries.
For French, she lived and worked in the mansion of "Monsieur le Comte" in the Fribourg countryside, then went to Geneva where she lived in the luxurious home of a French businessman and his wife. For English, she went to England with her friend, Jacqueline. They first found work in a remote country manor then went on to London where she and her friend were fortunate enough to be selected to serve and cook near Buckingham Palace in the home of Sir Henry Wheeler, a retired governor of Indochina, and his wife, a cousin to King George VI. The most distinguished of all the guests that Alice and Jackie served here was none other than Sir Winston Churchill himself.
It was upon returning to Switzerland some years later in 1951 when Alice ventured on to Ticino, the Italian-speaking province of Switzerland, to learn Italian that the most significant "twist of fate" in her life was to occur. It was there, while working in a restaurant and patisserie that she met her future husband, Elio Rodoni, who had immigrated to the United States in 1924 and was in Switzerland at the time visiting his family. A quick romance ensued and within a few months Alice got married and the following year was enroute to Butte, where Elio lived and where Alice would spend most of the remainder of her life.
Soon after her arrival in Butte in 1952, a first son, Eliodoro, was born. Seventeen months later, a second son, Edward arrived. Alice and Elio dedicated their lives to raising their boys, Doro and Ed, to creating a loving and engaging environment for them to grow up in, and to providing them with many educational and travel-related opportunities.
Alice's charming and loving personality, combined with her innumerable homemaking talents, allowed her to make friends easily and to have a strong and lasting influence on anyone who knew her well. She shared her recipes freely and was always willing to help and to instruct others. Alice was well known in Butte for her incredible culinary creations, for her annual holiday baking contributions to orphanages and for her constant and affectionate caring of the elderly.
With the loss of her husband in 1990, time stopped for Alice as she suffered an emotional trauma that made the remaining 21 years of her life very difficult for her. Despite the struggles and tribulations of her long illness, Alice maintained her selfless dignity and constantly expressed her deep desire to be remembered as the amazing person she once was and with whom she so profoundly identified. It was difficult for her to understand that, even in her illness, the charming and genuine lady that she was remained to the very end of her life. Her sense of humor and her tender loving charm will be dearly missed by all.
Alice is preceded in death by her mother and father; her sister, Edith; her brothers, Otto and Karl; her husband, Elio; and her son, Edward.
She is survived by her sister, Pellegrina of Switzerland; her son Eliodoro, daughter-in-law, Martina and two grandsons, Diego and Luca, all of Bozeman; and by numerous nieces and nephews in both Switzerland and the U.S.
Alice's family would like to thank the exceptional staff at the Gallatin Rest Home for the deep respect and genuine loving care they provide, Rocky Mountain Hospice, Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service in Bozeman and Wayrynen-Richards Funeral Home in Butte.
Cremation will take place in Bozeman, and funeral services will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19, at Wayrynen-Richards Funeral Home in Butte.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service; www.dokkennelson.com.
Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service
113 South Willson Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Dec. 17, 2011